Heaven and Hell Festival
Riverstage, Brisbane QLD
September 14th, 2019
Featuring: The Amity Affliction, Underoath, Trophy Eyes, Crossfaith, Make Them Suffer, Void of Vision, Thornhill, Pagan, Endless Heights and Nerve Damage
The moment all of us in Brisbane have been waiting for finally arrived over the weekend when The Amity Affliction‘s Heaven and Hell Festival came to town in celebration of Brisbane Festival, a month long, city wide celebration of all things arts, music and promotion of our beautiful city. Not gonna lie, we’ve needed this. At times we feel left out of the loop when special music events only seem to happen in either Sydney or Melbourne so when this idea first popped up in it’s early form, we jumped on it anyway we could to make sure people would turn up… AND TURN UP THEY DID for what was a great way to celebrate some heavy music and great times with mates, in the sun at the infamous Riverstage venue. The stage was set up with one act playing stage left and the other stage right for the entirety of the day, which sped the process of seeing bands performing one after the other, but kinda/sorta distracted punters who were watching one band perform while the other setup for their set next. More on that soon, but let’s get into it.
The day kicked off with Gold Coast hardcore act Nerve Damage, who joined the lineup last minute when Southeast Desert Metal had to unfortunately pull out. By the time we made it through the gates, the band were playing for a handful of attendees who made their way in early (I’m assuming) to get their spot on the barrier for the later bands, but they still made an impact with their heavy/hardcore sound. By the time we grabbed our drinks and found some shade next to the sound tent, the band had finished and Endless Heights hit the stage (in what would have to be one of the most seamless transitions I’ve ever seen at a music festival). Frontman Joel Martorana flailed about the stage with his long flowing red hair whipping back and forth as the band played through four songs including ‘You Coward‘, ‘Come A Little Closer‘, new single ‘Cold Hard Kiss‘ and ‘Drain‘. It may have been short and sweet, but it was enough to ease us all into the epic day we had ahead of us all.
Following the lads, Pagan hit the stage and did their best to get us all pumped with a healthy dose of heavy metal including standout songs like ‘Silver‘ and ‘Imitate Me‘ proving to be the band’s most popular in the Sunshine State. Frontwoman Nikki Brumen threw herself about the stage with her infamous red wine bottle making an appearance and being shared by each member of the band at one point, like a communal bottle of spirits you share at a house party. Despite it still being relatively early in the day, a small moshpit started with a select few punters keen to bash themselves about for a few songs erupted, much to the approval of the band on stage smiling back at them all. In a funny, wholesome way, Nikki shared the story she told us during our chat for the Heaven and Hell podcast special about screaming along to The Amity Affliction‘s song ‘Anchors‘ whilst driving about with her twin sister Olivia when they were younger, and that moment made her realise she wanted to be a singer/screamer for a band. Fast forward 9 years later and she is on tour with that exact band, unbeknownst to us all, that story would come full circle later in the day (more on that soon). Thornhill were next up and not only did their debut their new song ‘Nurture‘ LIVE for the first time, but they won the lols for the day with their hilarious festival backdrop opening theme featuring each member walking out to a WWE Wrestling “persona” showing off their pros and cons, much to the approval of everyone who had gathered around the concrete mosh for their set. The guys powered through tracks like ‘Coven‘, ‘Sunflower‘, ‘Parasite‘ and ‘Lavender‘ before wrapping it up with the song with the sexiest riff in Australian metalcore, ‘Reptile‘, sending fans into a wild mosh.
Up until Void of Vision hit the stage, the “screaming” member of bands were having some major microphone issues which had them sounding really turned down in comparison to their band mate’s instruments and backup mics, you could tell they were all putting in maximum effort, but unfortunately, whatever the issue was coming from the sound desk, that one key aspect was neglected which was unfortunate for those of us who could only hear instrumentals over the screams. But, as I mentioned, that seemed to kinda/sorta fix itself (on stage right anyway) during VoV‘s set, which was their first performance since releasing their new album Hyperdaze (our review here) and I can safely say, those new songs went fucking OFF in a live setting with the band debuting their latest single ‘If Only‘ for the first time, resulting in one of the biggest circle pits of the afternoon complete with one legendary bloke on crutches going hard, making all of us on the outer rims look like a bunch of softies… I’m old, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!!
They also smashed through hits like ‘Kill All My Friends‘, ‘Hole In Me‘, ‘Babylon‘, ‘Nightmare‘ and wrapped it all up with ‘Ghost In The Machine‘. If you didn’t get enough of the lads, make sure you catch them on tour next month with Northlane! Up next was Perth locals Make Them Suffer who opened their set with the always popular ‘Vortex (Interdimensional Spiral Hindering Inexplicable Euphoria)‘ which still holds up after all of these years since it’s release, however, those microphone issues mentioned earlier weren’t fixed on the stage left side with frontman Sean Harmanis sounding much softer as he screamed the words back at us, whereas the vocals for keyboardist Booka Nile were turned all the way up, having her come across much louder than the rest of the band. This was finally rectified after the second chorus with the rest of their set sounding on point. The best part about this scene is no matter who you are, or what you look like, 99% of us will have your back; (side story time); A young, long-haired bloke ran past us while the band were kicking off ‘Hollowed Heart‘ and he dropped his phone right in front of where we were standing. Instead of leaving it for someone else to grab, I picked it up and raced after him, through the crowd and into the moshpit to hand deliver it, much to his excited praise and thank yous! After that, he bounced off into the deep section of mosh (towards the barrier) and I headed back to my crew with a few bystanders showing their appreciation for my efforts. (Note, I’m not mentioning this for the kudos, just leading by example for what we should all be vigilant for at any show we come across and I’m sure there’d be others our there who would have done the exact same thing too.) ‘Blood Moon‘ and ‘Ether‘ wrapped up the band’s set with many fans leaving the concrete area covered in sweat, with huge smiles on their faces.
Following those legends were Crossfaith who, in my and many other’s opinions, absolutely stole the fucking show again! There is just something so special about this band and the way they take to the stage and grab your attention from start to finish. Whether it be the heavy instrumentals, the smoke and lights, the EDM/techno synth or frontman Kenta Koie‘s screams, everyone who had made their way to catch the band live were loving every second of it. It’s hard to pick a favourite song as each one played upped the ante bringing more ferocity and heightened tempo along with it but ‘Catastrophe‘ and ‘Countdown to Hell‘ were personal favs for this guy. The guys said they’ll be coming back to Australia next year but didn’t give any more details on top of that. Considering they played UNIFY Gathering back in January, I’m guessing we might see them playing Download Festival 2020 (but don’t quote me on that). Next up we had Trophy Eyes who (speaking of UNIFY) I only fell in love with following their set at the festival earlier this year, so much so, I had to get in where the action was, deep in the mosh in front of frontman John Floreani as the band powered through a set consisting of mainly news songs from their latest album The American Dream including ‘Friday Forever‘, ‘Something Bigger Than This‘, ‘More Like You‘ and ‘Lavender Bay‘. The band told the crowd they wanted to see as many people on each other’s shoulders as they could for ‘Hurt‘ so I obliged with a younger fan (who was there with her Mum) getting her up on mine for what she later told me was “one of her favourite songs of all time!”. That wholesome, everyone involved looking out for each other feeling was great to be part of and from what I’ve been told, every single Trophy Eyes concert is like that. We even sent up our mate Simone for her first ever crowd surfing experience during ‘Chlorine‘ and she managed to get over the crowd and barrier without incident. ‘You Can Count On Me‘ ended the set with a mass sing-a-long by everyone in attendance (well at least up close to the stage from what we witnessed) with many strangers grabbing hold of each other and belting out the words together. Good times. Great band. Amazing moment.
By the time Underoath hit the stage, the night was well and truly upon us, which set the tone for the band’s EPIC light and stage show as they all walked out and wasted no time getting straight into ‘On My Teeth‘ from Erase Me and a healthy mix of both newer tracks and old classics. Frontman Spencer Chamberlain screamed his way back into our lives with drummer Aaron Gillespie on backup vocals as per usual, but once again (for me anyway) it was keyboardist Chris Dudley who stole the show with his ferocious headbang routine I first witnessed during their Rebirth Tour back in 2017. This guy goes fucking off and if you’ve never seen his performance, well, you need to reevaluate your life choices. The band delved back into the catalogues with songs like ‘It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door‘, ‘Breathing In A New Mentality‘, ‘In Regards To Myself‘, ‘Writing On the Walls‘ and ‘A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black And White‘ pleasing even the oldest of fans and more recently released tracks like ‘ihateit‘, ‘Loneliness‘ and ‘Sink With You‘ bringing the newer ones up to speed. Personal opinion, I would have LOVED to have lost my shit to ‘Reinventing Your Exit‘ during that show, but I guess the offerings of other songs they haven’t played in a while made up for the lack of that banger… kinda.
At 8:30pm the lights dimmed and The Amity Affliction hit the stage to kick off their massive 15-song setlist which took fans all the way back to their Youngbloods days, through to their latest, action-packed single but before we get ahead of ourselves, the festivities kicked off with ‘Drag The Lake‘ (arguably) the best song from their latest album Misery, complete with sparklers, screams, cleans and plenty of sing-a-long fun! ‘Ivy (Doomsday)‘ and ‘I Bring The Weather With Me‘ followed and I have to mention that bassist Ahren Stringer‘s clean vocals were so much better than the last time I caught this band at Riverstage alongside PVRIS, Beartooth and Make Them Suffer in 2017, but also his heavy growls (which he jokingly pulled out every so often) had been refined and improved too, which I’m hoping he gets a chance to showcase on the band’s future albums, especially with the way he and frontman Joel Birch bounced off each other during their HEAVY new song ‘All My Friends Are Dead‘ which I just had to do a road test for in mosh for and I can safely say, everyone who was in that bash/circle pit put 110% into it, nailing each other, yet being caring and kind enough to lift you up if you fell. The brutal sections with Joel’s screams, joined by Ahren gave the whole atmosphere a facelift and momentarily, we were transported back to the band’s heavier days with albums like Severed Ties and Youngbloods, two staples fans like myself grew up listening to before they headed into their new infamous melodic-pop phase. ‘This Could Be Heartbreak‘ and ‘Shine On‘ invoked sing-a-longs (and a brief moment to run to the toilet), before the BEST part of the night played out…
Joel addressed the crowd before the next track kicked off saying: “you guys are gonna make sure this either gets played again or never again, you got it?” before busting out ‘Anchors‘ from Youngbloods, in full, for the first time in a very fucking long time. Over the years, the band have played around with doing a medley of songs from Youngbloods which to me, fell flat, because they didn’t give it the attention the tracks so rightfully deserved, so tonight, hearing ‘Anchors‘ in full again, brought back all those memories of seeing this band come up the ranks from playing venues like The Hi-Fi, Rosies/Thriller and even the Uni Bar wayyy back in the day, expect they brought out a very special guest in Nikki Brumen from Pagan (as I mentioned to look out for earlier), who belted out a section of the song, just like she did all those years ago when she first realised she could scream. It was wholesome. It was well received and it was a fucking amazing full-circle story for that incredible woman. I was so stoked when it played out and as you can see above, I HAD to capture the moment for all to see. ‘D.I.E‘ taught us how to spell again, ‘Open Letter‘ and ‘Chasing Ghosts‘ took us back to the Chasing Ghosts era, ‘Feels Like I’m Dying‘ brough the dance party back to life but something strange happened to myself and a mate during ‘Devil’s Hand‘ and Joe Longobardi‘s (somewhat pointless) drum solo that I need to share. We caught a glimpse of former drummer Ryan Burt watching side stage and I couldn’t help but feel devastated that he wasn’t part of the show, especially with that last mentioned song, which the music video for was filmed at that exact venue, Riverstage, a few years back. Band members come and go, I accept that, but Burt was an integral part of this band’s success in getting there where they are now. It would have been EPIC if they invited him to jump on stage for a song, or gave him a shout out during the time Joe’s platform raised as he played along to Metallica‘s ‘Enter Sandman‘ in that solo, but sadly this didn’t happen, which is fine, but, as I said, it would have been an epic way to include him, for the fans.
Heartfelt tracks like ‘Don’t Lean On Me‘ and ‘Pittsburg‘ rounded out the evening with the band heading off stage momentarily before returning to send us all off into the night with an encore of ‘All Fucked Up‘, complete with acoustic guitars, sing-a-long sections and crowd/mateship bonding. It was an interesting way to wrap the festival up, but it gave the majority of us the warm and fuzzies as we left, instead of taking the last bit of energy we had inside us with a faster track.
Wrapping things up, Amity’s Heaven and Hell Festival was a huge success and, as they’ve mentioned, they want this to become an annual event for Brisbane heavy music fans, which we are all for. The band curated the acts who appeared on the lineup, every single band gave their all for those who rocked up to see them live and, minus a couple of technical issues which can easily be resolved by next time, it was a fantastic day out for all (relive the day via our Instagram story here). I can’t wait to see what the guys have in store for us next year and if it was half as good as this first attempt, I’ll start lining up now…
Festival Review by Browny @brownypaul
Revisit our Heaven and Hell podcast episode featuring interviews with The Amity Affliction, Underoath, Crossfaith and Pagan right here
Void of Vision
Make Them Suffer
The Amity Affliction